Saturday, January 17, 2009

The more"Aha!'s" the better

Every writer loves those "aha!" moments--those unexpected, out of the blue moments of pure clarity when the way forward in your manuscript suddenly becomes perfectly, obviously, right-there-in-front-of-you-all-the-time clear.  Those are wonderful moments and we authors live for them, whether it be suddenly understanding exactly what a character must do or say in a given scene or something more strategic and structural, such as the need for the author to put a face on her protagonist's opposition.

Do aspiring authors get those moments? Sure.  How about more experienced, multi-published, professional authors?  Surely, authors such as those must be able to manufacture many of these moments--surely they can simply becon the Muse and she will sprint to do their bidding?

Maybe--or maybe not.

Not too many days ago, I returned to an arctic Chicagoland after presenting a Novelist's Boot Camp workshop to the Southwest Florida Romance Writers in sunny and warm (at least for part of the time) Ft. Myers, Florida. 

The group was great, the venue wonderful, and Florida's weather a welcome break from the sub-zero chill of the Windy City.  Among the attendees were two great, well-established authors--Linnea Sinclair who writes wonderful SF adventures infused with romance, and Tina Wainscott, who has a string of successful, fascinating romantic suspense novels (and some new stuff coming under a new pen name, as well). Also present was the up-and-coming author Stacy Klemstein. Keep an eye on this one, especially in the Young Adult market.

We--yours truly as the presenter and all the attendees--all worked hard for the entire day.  The Novelist's Boot Camp workshops are interactive and, unlike many other writing workshops, require that attendees use what they've learned to make their own work better, and do so on the spot.

It was from this hard work that the "Aha!'s" came--first from one writer, then another. Some simply raised their heads with that awe-struck "I see--I get it" look, others were louder and bounced around in their seats. Others tore pages out of their notebooks and began scribbling furiously.  Body language changed. 

I've seen this before in other Novelist's Boot Camp workshops and it's always rewarding to me.

The insight I'll share here is the obvious one, but in an art such as crafting book-length works of fiction, it's an insight we often forget.  Success, progress, creative quantum leaps--they all come from the work of writing and the work of not just learning how to write better, but of writing your own work better.  To use a metaphor from the world of athletics, coaching is important, but it's putting that coaching into practice that actually improves performance.

That's true not only for aspiring authors but for those who are on their umpteenth manuscript.


Monday, January 5, 2009

It's a natural thing

Can a writer benefit from a conscious analysis of his or her "natural" technique and strategy and making one or more of those better?

The common sense answer is "of course!" Artists, athletes, musicians, chefs, lovers--regardless of the activity, reviewing "what comes naturally" and consciously improving on that technique makes for a better painting, game, music, meal, or well, you know.

Writing a novel has been called part art and part science, and Novelist's Boot Camp is designed to help the novelist be better in both.

But does it work? I'd like to think so--RITA award winning and multi-published author Linnea Sinclair thinks so as well. Linnea is a self-admitted consummate "pantser"--writing by the seat of her pants. She does it exceptionally well too, as her best-selling books and awards testify. In writing, Linnea does what comes to her naturally.

Yet Linnea also recognizes the value of identifying an unconscious technique and refining that technique in order to become a better writer and produce better writing--so much so that shenot only commented on NBC in her blog, she'll be in the audience at the Novelist's Boot Camp workshop this coming week in Ft. Myers, Florida.

You can find out more about Linnea's books here.

She also recognizes that as an author progresses in his or her career, time and energy grow ever more at a premium. If that author wants to be at her most productive, meet the demands of the profession, and keep the fire of the love of writing alive, then the power of creativity has to be more organized, more disciplined, more focused. One of the end results is a better book. Another result is more fun.

And more fun--whether it be in writing, art, music, cooking, competitive athletics, or lovemaking--is good!